Austria's Mind.in.a.Box are one of the few bands really doing something innovative with the melodic, trance-inspired take on EBM established by VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk. Instead of just throwing some overwrought, vaguely philosophical vocals over a four-on-the-floor kick and adding some oversized synth builds, Stefan Poiss and Markus Hadwiger have put the "epic" back in "epic trance" by using the inherent drama of the genre to craft an ongoing storyline that combines the espionage thrills of the Bourne Identity films with the futuristic paranoia of the Matrix trilogy. The third part in the series begins with an agent, known only as Black, struggling to recall the events of the past few days: a surveillance operation gone very, very wrong. Themes of espionage and identity lost and recreated criss-cross throughout the album, all set to gorgeously produced electronic beats, and though this stuff works best as the soundtrack for the story it tells, it's certainly not the old-fashioned sort of rock opera; each of these songs works just fine on its own on a purely musical level. "Into the Night" starts with spoken word and a lovely trance build before shifting over into clean but hard-driving EBM, and "Redefined" is impossibly catchy, merging rapid-fire vocals with an infectious rhythm. "The Place" is slower, more romantic, with melancholy pianos meandering through fields of soft synthesizers, while "Run for Your Life" bursts into unabashed rock territory with crunchy guitars barreling over bass-heavy electro beats. If there's anything wrong with this album, it's that it ends on a cliffhanger. Having escaped the sinister agency he worked for, will Black forge a new life and find peace, or will his shadowy former employers get retribution? Similarly, having brought guitars into the mix, will Poiss and Hadwiger move into big beat territory and Chemical Brothers influences, or is it just a red herring to throw us off the trail? The wait for fans of this leading edge electronic outfit will be a frustrating one.
Find yourself at the Crossroads at www.mindinabox.
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